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International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

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Back issue   Volume 7   Number 1   October 2005

Sports marketing: a discipline for the mainstream

At a meeting of sports marketing academics in May, there was uniform agreement that many marketers continue to deny the relevance of sports marketing and maintain that although this might be an interesting area in which to work, it is economically insignificant and insufficiently different to other forms of marketing; it certainly does not justify the existence of specialist journals. Here is my response.

First, let us be clear about the contribution that sport makes to industrial output and economic activity. In the UK alone, sport currently accounts for 2% of gross domestic product and 2.5% of total consumer spend, with the latter forecast to increase 15% of current spend by 2007 (SIRC, 2003). Then let us consider some examples: in Scotland, the Celtic and Rangers football teams are estimated to add £120 million to the Glasgow economy each year (BBC, 2005); in France, up to 1.5 million people each day will stand at the roadside watching the Tour de France cyclists go past, each spectator buying food, drinks, accommodation, merchandising and so on (Gallagher, 2003). Second, sports marketing is distinctive. Its origins and relevance can be traced back to work undertaken by 20th century economists such as Neale (1964); sport and the activities surrounding it are based upon uncertainty of outcome. In my view, sports marketing should be defined in the following way:

It is an ongoing process through which a contest with an uncertain outcome is staged, creating opportunities for the simultaneous fulfilment of objectives among sport customers, sport businesses, participants and other related individuals, groups and organisations.

This definition differentiates sports marketing from other forms of marketing because no other product can consistently replicate sport, even in the cultural (what some marketers call ‘the unconventional’) industries. For example, when we first watch a film, there is no indication of what is going to happen, but for any subsequent viewing of that film, we will know the outcome. You can go to watch your favourite sport twice, five or ten times and never know who will win. The definition is also important because it indicates the boundaries of sports marketing. For instance, running a marathon falls within the domain of sports marketing but attending an aerobics class does not – the latter is a leisure pursuit. In sport, the appeal generated by uncertainty also means, for example, that sponsors, merchandisers, broadcasters and the media can pursue their objectives, so these also fall within the domain of sports marketing.

The academics assembled in Milan not only debated the nature and scope of sports marketing but also provided the basis for this edition of the Journal. The meeting was the European Academy of Marketing (EMAC) annual conference and it heralded both the growing interest in sport among mainstream marketers and the developing rigour of sports marketing research in academia. The papers here demonstrate this progression and create benchmarks that will help to establish sports marketing for its intellectual credibility, its practical relevance and its place in the mainstream.

Special thanks are reserved for Gabriele Troilo of Bocconi University, chairman of the organising committee at EMAC 2005, for giving permission for us to approach the authors of papers delivered at the conference. Thanks also to friends and colleagues for their good wishes following my appointment as editor. If you have any questions or comments on the Journal or its development, please feel free to contact me.

Simon Chadwick

Carl Grebert, Brand Director Nike Asia Pacific
Paper 1
The loyalty of German soccer fans: does a team’s brand image matter?
Hans H. Bauer, University of Mannheim
Nicola E. Sauer, University of Mannheim
Stefanie Exler, University of Mannheim
Factors that influence the game attendance and attitudinal loyalty of sports fans have been researched quite extensively in Anglo-American countries, but rather less in Germany. Brand image is held to be an important antecedent of fan loyalty. This study therefore investigates the relationship between these constructs, using a sample of 1,300 fans of German Bundesliga soccer teams. In addition to the verification of this link, causal modelling reveals a relationship between the major facets of a club’s brand image, namely attributes and benefits. Non-product-related attributes of the brand are more important to the fans’ loyalty than product-related attributes.
Paper 2
A post modern conception of the product and its applications to professional sports
Andre Richelieu, Faculte des Sciences de l'Administration, Université Laval, Québec
Christèle Boulaire, Universite Laval
In the post modern era, a product or service has four potential representations: experiential; social; democratic; and an element of an organisation, a network or a universe. This paper looks at post modern product representations in the sports industry that are supported by marketing decisions. These decisions could provide guidelines to sports managers who want to strengthen the emotional connection between the team and the fans.
Paper 3
Celebrity or athlete? New Zealand advertising practitioners’ views on their use as endorsers
Jan Charbonneau, Massey University
Ron Garland, Waikato University
Substantial literature exists researching effective celebrity endorser characteristics, and a growing body of literature investigates the specifics of professional athlete endorsements. However, there has been little focus on selection from the advertising practitioner’s perspective; research that does exist is limited to the United States and British markets. This research among New Zealand advertising agencies found that celebrities/athletes are used primarily to achieve ‘cut through’ and that their use is generally thought to be effective provided there is a tight fit between celebrity/athlete, brand and message. Interestingly, for New Zealand practitioners, the risk of negative publicity and hiring costs were the most important factors in the endorsement decision.
Paper 4
Image transfer in sports sponsorships: an assessment of moderating effects
Reinhard Grohs, University of Otago
Heribert Reisinger, University of Vienna
This paper identifies factors that support and hinder image transfer in sports sponsorships. It develops a framework of drivers of image transfer and tests the proposed hypotheses empirically at a large sporting event with a number of different sponsors. The results suggest that event-sponsor fit has a positive impact and is the main driver of the strength of image transfer. Event involvement also positively affects image transfer, but the magnitude of this effect is lower. Sponsorship exposure does not have a significant influence. However, there is an interaction between event-sponsor fit and sponsorship exposure, indicating that higher exposure leads to an increased image transfer if the fit between event and sponsor is high. Implications of results for the choice and design of sport sponsorships are discussed and further areas of research identified.
Paper 5
Relationship marketing during Rugby World Cup 2003: a comparative analysis of public and private sector sponsors
Robyn Stokes, Queensland University of Technology
Mega events offer a rich context for relationship marketing research, but no known research has investigated relationship leveraging among clients during mega events. This paper compares relationship leveraging by an Australian state government department and a private sector banking firm during Rugby World Cup 2003. A qualitative case study method highlighted a less structured approach to public sector relationship leveraging. Different timeframes for the relationship lifecycle, as well as philosophical, environmental and operational factors, impact upon event-based relationship marketing. Future comparative research is recommended.
Paper 6
The efficiency of integrated sponsorship advertising
Thade Dudzik, University Viadrina
Andrea Gröppel-Klein, University Viadrina
Three experiments conducted in Germany examined the impact of different sports sponsorship messages on the perception of print advertisements. The use of sponsorship in advertising proves to be risky. The use of pictures needs particularly careful consideration. The effectiveness of sports celebrities in ads depends on their common popularity, whereas the use of sports motifs bears the risk that consumers cannot identify with the situation. Attitudes towards sponsorship seem to play an important role in the perception of sports ads in general. Here further research is needed.
Paper 7
Relating on-field performance to paid football club membership
Robin N. Shaw, Deakin University
Heath Mcdonald, Deakin University
An empirical investigation based on seven years’ data for a professional football league finds that on-field performance bears little relation to the number of paid members or season ticket holders for the clubs.
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